Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees - Game OneOne of the few names being suggested that the Seattle Mariners have yet to be linked to by any of a variety of sources is Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista. On the surface there’s a match; the Blue Jays are believed to be in the market for young starting pitching, of which the M’s have, perhaps even to spare to some extent, and the Mariners need outfielders with offensive punch.

Bautista is signed through the 2015 season with a club option for 2016. Assuming that option is exercised, the 33-year-old would be owed $42 million over three seasons. Bautista was an MVP caliber player in 2010 and 2011 and while he’s dipped a bit in production — and health — the dollars he’s due is well worth it.

The Dominican native was given a clean bill of health in November after a hip problem during the season, but even in limited duty over the past two years he’s been worth 3.0 and 4.2 fWAR. He’s a solid-average corner outfield glove when healthy, has a plus throwing arm and it’s far from unreasonable to expect him to remain a 4-5 win player over the next couple of years. Sounds great, right?

There is one problem: the young arms the Mariners may have to spare — James Paxton and Brandon Maurer, for example — aren’t surefire 2014 rotation stalwarts, and the Jays have no reason to move Bautista for salary purposes. That may mean the only way the Mariners can acquire Bautista is by parting with top talent Taijuan Walker, whose name has been mentioned in trade talks for Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price.

It doesn’t appear the two clubs have had such discussions, either, tweets’s Jon Morosi. And who could blame the Jays for not wanting to deal Bautista?

We learned from former NFL head coach Herm Edwards that “you play to win the game” so the Jays, while they have a pitching need, do need to score runs, too, and perhaps GM Alex Anthopoulos isn’t too keen on a lineup highlighted by Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion. Bautista is their anchor.

If Anthopoulos was to go out and land another hitter — which would probably have to be an outfielder to replace Bautista — then maybe the situation changes enough for Bautista to be put in play.

There is one other obstacle for the Mariners if Bautista becomes available: they certainly would not be the only team interested, and as stated above, they aren’t the perfect fit. Two clubs that might be? The Cleveland Indians, who are said to be open to discussing right-hander Justin Masterson, and their cross-state rival Cincinnati Reds, who may be open to moving Homer Bailey in the right scenario, and may not have much of a shot to retain the services of free agent Shin-Soo Choo.

The Texas Rangers may have interest, too, having lost Josh Hamilton a year ago and Nelson Cruz appears to be headed elsewhere this winter.

If GM Jack Zduriencik has the chance to move a non-Walker starting pitching prospect to headline a package to acquire Bautista, I imagine he’ll do so. It does seem like a long shot such an opportunity will present itself, however.

I will say this, though: I’d rather move Walker in a deal for a healthy Bautista than for Price. In the end, I’d hold off on making the 21-year-old right-hander available in either deal.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 and spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio. He now serves as the Executive Copy Editor at Data Skrive, a tech company that manipulates data to provide automated content to clients including the AP, BetMGM, USA Today, and ESPN. Find Jason's baseball podcast, Baseball Things, right here.

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